Yunnan Province is unarguably the most diverse and endlessly captivating region of China, and a must for any on a tour of China seeking an authentic taste of this magnificent but rapidly changing country. With a landscape varying between majestic mountains to tropical rainforest, littered with ancient monuments and towns, Yunnan is an astonishingly unique part of the world. The capital of the Yunnan Province, Kunming, has been gripped by modernisation but nonetheless still retains a unique flavour of its own with its charming pagodas, glittering parks and grand temples and mosques.
In contrast to Kunming, Lijiang is home to one of the finest preserved ancient towns in China and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. With its enchanting traditional Chinese architecture set against a beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains, Lijiang is a dramatic and evocative reminder of the old China that intrigued outsiders for centuries. While the breathtakingly beautiful city of Dali, with its laid-back vibe, old wooden buildings and cobbled streets, is undoubtedly the best place to just kick back and admire Yunnan’s spectacular scenery.
The Shilin Stone Forest features high on the itineraries of most tours of China that pass through Yunnan, so if you’re here it is best to make the most of it. A natural wonder where the elements have somehow contrived to create a huge labyrinth of gigantic stone pillars – the tallest one standing at 30m high – Shilin has unfortunately been somewhat distorted by the tourism industry and can frustrate visitors. However, by arriving in the evening and exploring the stones away from the centre by moonlight, it is still possible to enjoy an idyllic and unforgettable visit here.
Yunnan is the most ethnically diverse province in all of China with 26 different ethnic minorities endowing the region with a rich heritage and varied culture. These ethnic minorities are:- the Achang, Bai, Benglong, Bonan, Bulang, Dai, De'ang, Drung, Dulong, Hani, Hui, Jinuo, Jingpo, Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Mongols, Naxi, Nu, Pumi, She, Tibetans, Wa, Yao, Yi, and Zhuang.